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Published: Thursday, December 09, 2010
Nancy Kerrigan is among the cavalcade of skating stars at Boardwalk Hall Saturday, Dec. 11, for ‘The Caesars Tribute: A Salute to the Golden Age of American Skating.’
Skating stars bring family fun to Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall

The list of participants for "The Caesars Tribute: A Salute to the Golden Age of American Skating" reads like a highlight reel for skating's greatest moments of the past half-century.

The lineup at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall also largely lives up to the "Golden" billing, with reigning men's Olympic figure skating champion Evan Lysacek on hand, as well as three other men's gold medalists - Brian Boitano (1988), Scott Hamilton (1984) and Dick Button (1948 and 1952) - plus four ladies' Olympic winners in Sarah Hughes (2002), Kristi Yamaguchi (1992), Peggy Fleming (1968) and Tenley Albright (1956).

The event, presented by Harrah's Entertainment, Caesars Atlantic City and StarGames, is being taped by NBC, which will air it 4 p.m. Christmas Day.

The remaining 20 or so skaters, while never having claimed the sport's ultimate Olympic honor, have brought home multiple world championship titles and Olympic silver and bronze medals.

They include singles skaters Nancy Kerrigan, Sasha Cohen, Paul Wylie, Debi Thomas, Todd Eldredge, Rosalynn Sumners and Linda Fratianne, and pairs teams including Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner and Calla Urbanski and Rocky Marval.

"It's an honor to represent the old and current skaters," says Cohen, the 2006 Olympic silver medalist. "I think it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event."

But the roster also points to a surprising outcome in skating in 2010: This was the first winter Olympic year since 1964 that the U.S failed to place a female skater on the podium.

Kerrigan, an Olympic silver medalist in 1994 and a bronze medalist in 1992, hopes the "lull" is temporary.

"It's a little arrogant to think that Americans will always be on top, except for the fact that we are such a large country," she says. "Part of it is that (the competitors) are girls, not women, and so to handle the pressure is not easy. It can be a challenge all by itself just to get out there to perform at such a high level when you're so young.

"Just knowing someone is saying there is a lull, it's a lot to live up to, and therefore you don't always get the best performances they can give."

Kerrigan, whose 1994 Olympic run was threatened by a bizarre attack allegedly orchestrated by rival Tonya Harding's ex-husband and his friend, and Yamaguchi, a recent winner on "Dancing with the Stars," were two of the skaters who helped inspire Cohen to pursue the sport.

"I was a little kid watching them come up," Cohen says of Yamaguchi and Kerrigan. "They were gorgeous women and beautiful skaters. It was such a dream. I was just starting to skate and wanted to attain that level in skating and have that kind of recognition."

Although Cohen didn't quite live up to her Olympic potential, she has come to appreciate the experience of competition during her second career as a show skater.

"When you're in the midst of it all, you get blindsided - you're so stressed about competing," Cohen says. "Once you take a step back from it and get to do events like this, and skate with people who were your idols, it comes back into context. You realize how special it was and how unique."

For Kerrigan, the new context includes being the mom of three children and having to get into skating shape again at the ripe ol' age of 41.

"I'm happy with where my life is now," she says. "I was blessed at how lucky I was to represent the U.S. twice at the Olympics games, and that was just amazing. I grew up thinking such a thing could never even happen and to be able to go twice. …

"At the same time, I don't really want to be (a competitor) now. I don't want to be in that kind of training - I'm old!"

A golden pedigree

Evan Lysacek, left

The 2010 gold medalist, known for his athleticism and precision on the ice, was the first U.S. men's Olympic champion in 22 years. Lysacek not only interrupted the comeback bid of 2006 gold medalist Evgeni Plushenko of Russia, he also ended a run of four straight gold medal wins by Russians.

Peggy Fleming

Her 1968 Olympic gold medal was a personal triumph and a big win for women's skating, following a 1961 plane crash that killed the entire team as it was traveling to the world championships in Prague. Fleming went on to star in multiple TV specials, became a commentator for the sport and an advocate in the fight against breast cancer.

Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner

Perhaps the most famous American skaters never to have won an Olympic medal, this duo was the favorite to win in 1980 after claiming the prior year's World Championship crown. However, the five-time U.S. gold medalists were forced to withdraw from the Lake Placid, N.Y., games after Gardner injured his leg.

'The Caesars Tribute:

A Salute to the Golden Age

of American Skating'

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11

WHERE: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City

HOW MUCH: Tickets, priced at $29.50, $42.50, $62.50, $92.50 and $149.50, are available at Boardwalk Hall box office or http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/tickets" target= "_blank">www.pressofatlanticcity.com/tickets

WEBSITE: http://www.caesarstribute.com/" target= "_blank">www.CaesarsTribute.com



 

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